Officials concerned about wastewater treatment plant expansion
An official from the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) briefed Converse City council on the estimated $20 million wastewater treatment plant expansion, which is currently in its environmental investigation stage.
Construction on the project is estimated to begin in January 2021 and take nearly two years to complete.
The expansion will add three 90-foot circular clarifiers to the three currently at the plant, which rests on 34 acres across from Judson Middle School on Schaefer Road.
Amy Middleton, a senior technical engineer with SARA’s watershed engineering department, said the city’s continued growth has forced SARA to enlarge its wastewater treatment capacity.
“Converse is booming, so we’re getting more wastewater,” Middleton told council. “We’re planning to expand (average annual flow) of 5.83 million gallons a day (MGDs) to 7.5 MGDs to address the ultimate build-out of the area.”
Middleton told council the open-tank clarifiers cannot be any closer than 150 feet to neighboring property lines. About 20 homes on Copper Bluff and another dozen along Copper Brook in the Copperfield subdivision share a fence line with the SARA acreage.
More residential development is planned in the Converse area, which Middleton said would put additional strain on the current plant’s capacity.
“Residential development projects are expected in the vicinity,” she said. “Without this project, these residential developments would not have sewer service.”
Although city council was told the design phase of the project won’t begin until January 2020, some members weren’t happy with the plan.
“I’m not too happy with the expansion,” Mayor Al Suarez told Middleton. “I tried to buy this land in 2013, but that fell through. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to buy it, because of what you’re doing now.”
Suarez said the projected treatment plant expansion was “not fair” to residents who have recently built homes in the area.
“Now, you want to expand (after we) we built out the area. I don’t think it’s fair to the residents,” Suarez said, adding, “We can live with what you have now, but expansion is the opposite effect now.”
Middleton said she doubted SARA’s design team would place clarifiers that close to the Copperfield home property lines. “I can’t promise exactly where it’s going to go, but I don’t foresee backing up right behind somebody’s home,” she said.
Placing most or any of the clarifiers at the 150-foot mark would be counter-productive for SARA, she said.
“The (150-foot) buffer is there, but we hope to be as compact as we can because operationally it’s easier to get to in relation to what’s already in use there,” she said.
Councilwoman Deborah James said a pungent smell from the plant is discernible in and around the Copperfield subdivision. Any increased odor from adding the extra clarifiers, she said, might force homeowners to sell their homes.
“I live way up on the hill in Copperfield, and the smell is just tremendous,” James said. “I can’t imagine what they smell down there, the residents right close to it.”
Middleton said she would present the odor concern to the SARA supervisory team “to see what measures have been done. But I do know … that (odor) is on the list of items to be addressed.”
James said the odor problem has persisted for years. She said she brought up the topic when a SARA official spoke to council several years ago.
“If you don’t do something about (the odor), I’m afraid people are going to start moving out,” James said. “They were under the impression that this sewer plant was not going to expand..”
“People understand that they moved in with this facility, but now you want to expand it. That wasn’t part of the plan when they moved in,” the mayor said. “To me, they have a good argument.”
Middleton reminded the council that the project is still almost a year from the design phase, which is scheduled for January-December 2020. Construction would then begin in January 2021, with a completion date somewhere around December 2022.
A project open house was scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at SARA’s Martinez II utilities administrative office, 1720 FM 1516 North (about 1.5 miles south of Interstate 10 on FM 1516).